After Bolton trashed Bush in an op-ed, the former president complained that he had expended political capital on Bolton and got little in return.
It turns out Donald Trump is not the only president who regrets tapping John Bolton as a senior national security advisor. In 2008, then-President George W. Bush bitterly recounted his decision to hire Bolton over the objections of the Senate at the time. In 2005, Bush recess-appointed Bolton as his top envoy to the United Nations after it became clear he would not win Senate confirmation.
“Let me just say from the outset that I don’t consider Bolton credible,” Bush reportedly told an assembled group of political writers.
Bolton was one of the primary proponents of the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, requiring a ground invasion and regime change by U.S. troops. “We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq,” Bolton said in 2002.
Even after those claims were debunked and the promised weapons of mass destruction were never found, he remained a steadfast supporter of the Iraq War, claiming it couldn’t be proved that the ensuing chaos was caused by the decision to remove Hussein from power.
According to New York Times reporter Peter Baker, Bush told the assembled writers he did not think his hire of Bolton had been worth it in the end.
“I spent political capital for him,” Bush reportedly said, complaining he got little in return.
One of the writers at the meeting confirmed Baker’s account in 2018. The Washington Post’s Max Boot ended his column, “Why I changed my mind about John Bolton,” with a retelling of what Bush had said at the meeting in 2008.
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